Previously Published on The Herald-Times – Ah, how I miss the holidays already. I already miss the merriment, gift exchanges and the delicious pies, tarts and other sweet goodies. In my case, my weakness — my mother-in-law’s finger-lickin’ molasses cookies. What we don’t ever think about — rightfully so — is the massive amount of sugar we are consuming, and that is of course not just during the holidays. Sugar — we cannot live without it. As a matter of fact, our brain requires glucose (the body’s form of stored energy) to function. But too much blood sugar leads to diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body processes blood sugar. Diabetes is split into two categories — Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is genetic, and can start at any age in life — although it most often appears in childhood or in adolescent years. We will mostly talk about Type 2 diabetes because it is preventable.
Causes of Diabetes
The No. 1 cause of Type 2 diabetes is obesity and an inactive lifestyle. Symptoms of diabetes include the following: increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, irritability, blurred vision, slow-healing sores and fatigue. These symptoms typically start in pre-diabetes (a precursor to diabetes). They gradually increase in frequency, as the blood sugar is uncontrolled.
We discussed earlier that obesity is a biggest risk factor, but family history, environmental factors, your age and even geography can play a role. Diabetes that is severely uncontrolled can lead to kidney damage, nerve damage, eye damage and many other complications. This is why prevention and treatment are so important!
So, now that I have scared you, I can assure you that diabetes is very preventable. Eat healthfully — choose foods high in fiber and low in fat. Fruits and veggies are key! Get more exercise — walk more, work out a couple times a week — ideally 150 minutes per week. Aim to lose weight and focus on permanent changes; do not focus on fad diets. Motivate yourself by joining a workout program or pairing up with a buddy to go walking.
Treatment for diabetes is vast and very tailored to the specific individual. If you start having any of the symptoms above and/or have a family history of diabetes, I greatly encourage you to make an appointment with your doctor.
There are oral medications such as metformin that can help lower your blood sugar. Insulin is one of the greatest medications of all time as it has saved countless lives. It is injectable and lowers the blood sugar quickly — Type 1 diabetics rely on insulin as the standard choice of medication but many Type 2 diabetics use it, too. Many new medications that you may have seen on TV include Ozempic and Trulicity.
The single most important piece of advice I can give is to check your blood sugar. Without knowing where you stand it is hard to determine what your treatment will be. Your doctor may check your A1C (for healthy individuals the goal is less than 5.7%). This is ever so important I cannot emphasize it enough!
If you got to the end of this article, I applaud you, because diabetes is serious and now you know, sugar can lead to diabetes. Far too many people not only lose their lives because of this disease, but they are disabled because of it. Rethink your diet, rethink your lifestyle, and make 2022 your year of getting healthy!
Krutika Simon is a pharmacist based in Bloomington with a focus on health and wellness and specialty medications. Contact Krutika at KrutikaSimon@gmail.com.
Previously Published on The Herald-Times